"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, November 16, 2012

Feminism’s Whimper

Jessica Valenti writes in The Nation (11.16.12) that the election was a thumping success for feminism:

Something strange is happening to feminists. We’re winning. The election gave us the re-election of a feminist-friendly president, a record number of women in Congress, the first openly gay US senator and wins for marriage equality in four states. There’s energy and interest on feminist issues the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades.

Wait a second here.  “A feminist-friendly president”?  Where did that come from?  Of course Obama is for equal rights as most Americans are, but certainly not feminism.  Here are some quotes by Andrea Dworkin, considered by many to be a latter day leader of the feminist movement:

Romantic love, in pornography as in life, is the mythic celebration of female negation. For a woman, love is defined as her willingness to submit to her own annihilation. The proof of love is that she is willing to be destroyed by the one whom she loves, for his sake. For the woman, love is always self-sacrifice, the sacrifice of identity, will, and bodily integrity, in order to fulfill and redeem the masculinity of her lover.

Men have defined the parameters of every subject. All feminist arguments, however radical in intent or consequence, are with or against assertions or premises implicit in the male system, which is made credible or authentic by the power of men to name.

Men know everything - all of them - all the time - no matter how stupid or inexperienced or arrogant or ignorant they are.

A man's worth is located in his pride in phallic identity. The main characteristic of phallic identity is that worth is entirely contingent on the possession of a phallus. Since men have no other criteria for worth, no other notion of identity, those who do not have phalluses are not recognized as fully human.

Next, the election of an openly gay woman to the Senate.  How does this have anything to do with feminism? There are plenty of women in Congress, but not 50-50 so one more is a good thing; but what has homosexuality got to do with it?  This is a gay rights issue, is it not?

Why is marriage equality (code words for gay marriage) a feminist thing?  OK, let me think.  Gay men want to be women, so any progress made in gay rights is progress for women.  Actually, true progress would be more straight women marrying gay men, but that is another story.

So if you accept Dworkin’s castrating view of men; and the twisted logic of neo-feminists celebrating gay rights, there really isn’t that much to cheer about.  Moreover, if you go to any variety store (notions, ribbons, dress-up things) you will be surrounded by mothers and their daughters buying glitter, pink ribbons, Barbie dolls, cute diaries with lambs and stars on them.  The last redoubt of roughhewn feminism is in Sweden where government has outlawed the use of male-female pronouns.  No more ‘him’ and ‘her’ but the gender-neutral ‘hen’.  Also gone are Legos for boys, dolls and toy kitchens for girls.  Here in the United States, however, more toy guns, brutal and violent video games, and aggressive monster trucks, earth movers, Big Stomper’s, Army fatigues, and battle gear than ever before.

The last time I checked more women than men are enrolled in law school and medical school, most women work at some trade or profession, and while many women – to their credit – have given up some career advancement for the sake of child-rearing – economic prospects are good. 

I am aware that Larry Summers raised the thorny question of why women are not in the highest ranks of science and mathematics suggesting, ever so slightly, that there may be a wiring issue at work; but at the same time I hear women intellectuals celebrating M-F brain differences and touting the female cooperative, collaborative, consensus-seeking management style. 

So, what to make of all this?  Women succeeding even more than men at many professions; pay gaps persisting not because of discrimination but because of career choices; acknowledged differences in M-F behavior; constant, irrefutable return of boys to aggressive play and pursuits and girls to more domestic, pretty, and nurturing roles.

Feminism is in its baroque period – it has long outlived its importance.  Let’s give credit where credit is due.  Feminism in the 1970s, just like affirmative action shortly afterwards, gave a push to disadvantaged ‘minorities’; but it is no longer relevant.  The very fact that so-called feminists are cheering for peripheral causes (see above) shows how the movement is febrile and becoming baroque.

However, feminism will not die because there are too many sunken costs, too many careers at stake, too many articles still to be written by Brown Assistant Professors (“Othello the Woman-Hater: Cunts and Enduring Blackness”).  That is all well and good.  Most English Departments run by unreconstructed Sixties liberals have only a few years to go before their Chairmen (women) are put out to pasture.

I lived through the hairy legs-and-armpits, bra-burning, euphoria of the early Seventies.  Most of us men stood by and applauded women’s uppity-ness.  We knew that at heart they really hadn’t changed, nor would we.  This paroxysm of pride and militant demand would end one day, and that Marx would eventually rule (Man is an Economic Animal). After all, an economy with 100 percent economically productive citizens is better than 50, so capitalism would soon catch on and encourage women to get out of the kitchen and work!.  Women would still dress in these outrageously seductive and provocative clothes, and men would still think about sex all day every day, would chercher la femme, pursue even the slightest and most insignificant hint, bat of an eyelash, sexy turn of a leg.  Equilibrium would be restored. 

So, it’s nice to know that Ms. Valenti and that august liberal journal The Nation celebrate feminism’s success.  Few of the rest of us do.  We cheered when it really mattered.

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